A tribute to the Replacements at First Avenue, 11/29/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess

A tribute to the Replacements plus a performance of Hootenanny
with Mad Ripple Hoot for Slim, Martin Devaney, Stereo Confessions, Fury Things, The Blackberry Brandy Boys, Ol' Yeller, the Crash and Burns, The Melismatics and more
First Avenue and 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Friday, November 29, 2013

In a year that's brought three reunion shows and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination, anything seems possible for the Replacements. Just to get this out of the way: no, the band themselves did not show up to Friday night's tribute. All the same, the showcase brought with it a whole range of scenes one would have expected from the 'Mats at various stages in their career: high school bassists, drunk and disintegrating performances, and some of the most solid rock music out there from Minnesota musicians.

See Also: Slideshow: A Tribute to the Replacements, 11/29/13

The show opened with the Mad Ripple Hootenanny, led by Jim Walsh, known for writing the definitive history of the Replacements, All Over But the Shouting and adding the coffee table photo book this year. Dedicating the performance to Bob "Slim" Dunlap, "patron saint of the hoot," Walsh and the other dozen or so musicians on stage played selections of the guitarist's solo work. It was a fitting opener. Proceeds from the night went towards the Slim Dunlap Fund, supporting the 'Mats guitarist (he replaced Bob Stinson in 1986) through his recovery from a stroke earlier this year.

For the opening number of the show, Walsh's own "Sworn Member of the Slim Dunlap Fan Club," there were seven guitars playing at once, but the piece sounded remarkably cohesive and smooth, as much like a free-flowing gathering of musicians as an intimate coffee shop performance in front of a few friends. Martin Devaney continued the mood with "Hate This Town," sincerely musing "In my dream I didn't hate this town / I'm goddamn lucky to be here" and filling the mainroom with haunting, lonely harmonica.

Photo by Erik Hess
Martin Devaney

As nice a start to the evening as the tribute to Slim was, "cohesive," "smooth," and "intimate" wouldn't be appropriate descriptions of many of the performances that followed -- as it should be. In the entry, Stereo Confession kicked off their set with "I Hate Music," sneering the lyric "I hate my high school" with a level of vitriol that could only be reached by someone who is actually still in high school.

Though they were some of the youngest people at the 18+ show, they have been playing together for four years, and this experience showed in their sound. Despite rough edges, the three-piece threw out as much energy as anyone there, and even though their drummer looked like he was trying to solve a difficult math problem, they held a steady rhythm. It doesn't hurt that they know how to work a room. Their lead singer dedicated their closing song to a special fan: "So my English teacher is here tonight. I'd like to dedicate this next song to her -- it's a little number called 'Fuck School.'"

Photo by Erik Hess
Stereo Confession

Back in the mainroom, fellow three-piece Fury Things were showing off what Stereo Confession could eventually become. In a particularly apt choice for Black Friday, their cover of the consumerism aping "Customer" from Sorry Ma... absolutely shredded, stopping and exploding on a dime, the sonic equivalent of a molotov through a Walmart window.

Photo by Erik Hess
Blackberry Brandy Boys
Photo by Erik Hess

After Fury Things cleaned out the crowd's collective eardrums, the vibe shifted from punk to Americana. The Blackberry Brandy Boys were fully equipped to produce any sound on the roots music, country, or dad-rock spectrum, with a steel guitar, fiddle, double-necked guitar and an acoustic. "Aching to Be" benefited greatly from the treatment, gaining a new level of longing from increased steel guitar and a mournful fiddle solo. The whole building seemed to be feeling a three-beer, summer night buzz as the last notes faded out.

Photo by Eric Hess
Ole Yeller

Ol' Yeller, though not without a few moments of twang, brought it back to straight-up guitar rock. Their renditions of tracks from Let it Be were particular standouts. The guitars of "16 Blue" carried almost human sadness, and the solos seemed to be less breaks in the normal rhythm of the song than uncontrollable outbursts of feeling. "Answering Machine" was similar, more wailed than sung or played, and building to a powerful and hard-rocking conclusion. I half-expected to hear yells of "Freebird!" from the crowd as they exited, and I mean that in the absolute best way.

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